Thanksgiving Day races feature multiple records

Photos Courtesy of Mark Nyhan Participants begin the race. A total of 3,101 people finished the Ashenfelter classic, and 461 finished the Tom Fleming Mile.
Photos Courtesy of Mark Nyhan
Participants begin the race. A total of 3,101 people finished the Ashenfelter classic, and 461 finished the Tom Fleming Mile.

GLEN RIDGE, NJ — On Thanksgiving Day, the Ashenfelter 8-K race and the Tom Fleming Mile run in Glen Ridge enjoyed a record number of finishers, according to race director Dan Murphy.

“This year, there were 3,101 finishers in the Ashenfelter Classic,” Murphy said earlier this week. “For the Tom Fleming Mile, there were 461 finishers. Both are records by quite a lot.”

Murphy attributed the records to good weather and a steady increase of runners from year to year.
“Except for last year, when we had poor weather,” he said.

Murphy said 3,990 runners signed up for both races and the times were remarkably fast, with the men’s winner running at a record pace of 4:47 a mile for the 5-mile course. The women’s winner did a personal best with a pace of 5:39 a mile.

“There was a huge crowd,” Murphy said, “The whole town came out for it.”
There was also added security at the event, he said.

With all the enthusiastic volunteer help, Murphy called the day a race director’s dream.
The proceeds from the races benefit the host of the races, the Glen Ridge Educational Foundation. From the perspective of Fran Wong, the GRFF chairwoman, the races looked a little different than just a runner’s time and finish.

To pull the event off, she said, it first involves a strong connection with the
runner’s community, and Murphy provided this.

After that, for the GRFF, which funds the event, the 2015 edition of the races meant 16,000 safety pins, 1,200 bananas, 1,800 doughnuts, 1,440 bagels, 4,000 bottles of water, 30,000 gallons of coffee and 1,600 breakfast buns.

“We had sundry costs and a lot of overhead, like 25 Porta Potties,” she said earlier this week.
As for security, Wong said the Glen Ridge Police were at the event — according to Sgt. Merritt Carr, the entire force of 23 was at the event — as well as two bomb-sniffing dogs, New Jersey Transit Police and the Essex County Sheriff’s Department.

“It’s an iconic event,” she said. It’s heartwarming to see all the people come out. Altogether, we had about 200 volunteers.”

Wong said it will be a while until the foundation knows how much money it made. But the proceeds will help provide funding for numerous activities for borough students. One is a virtual high school at Glen Ridge High School where students can take courses online.This will provide GRHS students with the chance to take courses the high school is too small to offer.

“It’s the third year of the virtual high school,” Wong said. It’s the third year for it after a pilot year. We are committed to it for five years.”

The foundation will also be announcing its mini and expanded grants this week. Seven are mini grants, which are $750 awards. Four are expanded grants and worth $3,000 each.
An expanded grant will bring the high school TV station up to industry standards.
“One grant involves the entire high school history department,” Wong said. “It’s for professional development to learn ways to teach using source material.”

Wong gave an example.
“Say, you’re studying the Magna Carta,” she said. “Instead of reading in a textbook what it says, now, they will be going to the Magna Carta and analysing what’s going on in the culture at that time. It’s more holistic. So, you walk away with why something happened at a particular time.”

So, while the Ashenfelter and Fleming races are run on Thanksgiving, considering their true purpose, the results of the runners are yet to be recorded.